I find eating through a cuisine a great way to learn about a new culture, which is what I typically do when I travel overseas. New York City is a foodie-paradise with abundant choices for high-end splurges, plentiful cheap eats, as well as a handful of grocery stores. Our main purpose for heading to New York City was a 9-course menu at Per Se, so I knew I had to save my stomach for the ultimate gastronomical experience.
So what’s the trick to eating healthy, plentiful meals while still wanting to experience everything NYC has to offer? I am sure not if we’ve mastered it just yet, but here are my tips to how NOT to eat out while in NYC.
The first step is to find yourself a kitchen, because that makes a world of difference. In a city where apartments are tiny, hotel rooms are equally as small and ridiculously expensive. We stayed at the Affinia Manhattan, across from Penn Station, with huge rooms and reasonable rates (we paid $139/night + tax). However, the main advantage is that each room has a kitchen, complete with a fridge/freezer, oven/stove, microwave, toaster and utensils/plates/cutlery. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, you may need to become more creative, storing food in the minibar, bringing cutlery/plastic containers, etc.
I will admit that we visited more grocery and food stores while we were in NYC than anything else, but that’s what we like! Trader Joe’s is great for picking up breakfast items. I bought some quick-cook steel cut oats (what an oxymoron, but true to the advertising they cooked up in 7 minutes over the stovetop) and we added some dried blueberries and bananas for a delicious breakfast. We picked up some apples, edamame hummus and baby carrots for snacks. Arugula and artichoke antipasto spread were bought for sandwiches. Other travelling-friendly breakfast options sans-stovetop would be granola overtop yogurt and fruit or overnight oats.
After Trader Joe’s, the next stop was Eataly, the upscale Mario Batali Italian superstore. My main purpose was to buy mosto cotto, a condensed balsamic vinegar made with reduced Concord grapes (any clue where to buy this in Toronto?). While the prices are not cheap, Eataly is a good place to pick up high-quality items for sandwiches.
Armed with a loaf of “rustic” fig bread (slightly sweet from the figs), 18-month-aged prosciutto (nicely flavoured), and taleggio (a mild cow’s milk creamy, soft cheese), we had the fixins for a super sandwich. With a limited number of ingredients, quality is the defining factor of your sandwich. I found the flavours worked really well, with the slightly sweet bread topped with the silky artichoke dip. Next, we topped it with overflowing arugula, laid a slice or two of prosciutto and lastly added a few pieces of silky, melt-in-your-mouth taleggio cheese. All the ingredients lasted us a few meals with some food left over to bring back to Canada (the artichoke surprisingly did not set off the alarms at the airport, hehe). For a vegetarian option, roasted red peppers could be substituted for the prosciutto and for vegans, the cheese could easily be omitted.
I will also give due credit to the most wondrous milk we bought at Eataly – Soloriso basmati rice milk. With a delicate smooth flavour, I never knew rice milk could taste so good. With a side of edamame hummus and carrots, this is how a foodie does not eat out in NYC.
Where we ate elsewhere in NYC:
Ess-A-Bagel – There are Montreal-style bagels and New York-style bagels. When in NYC, you should try New York-style bagels. Ess-A-Bagel is well-known for its huge, fluffy bagels (12 different varieties including whole wheat everything), and also serves up vegan-friendly tofu-spread in lieu of cream cheese (the traditional cream cheeses are there too, including the delectable lox cream cheese). The bagels are packed with filling, and 1 bagel could easily serve 2.
Alan’s Falafel – Battle of the street cart food falafel in NYC creates the most lusciously moist falafel with minimal grease. Get it in a wrap, a salad or combo spread with lettuce, tomato, hummus and a sesame dipping sauce. Can’t say I’ve compared it to Sam’s, but Alan’s was mighty tasty.
Candle Cafe – A long-time favourite vegan resto with a focus on local, organic foods. The collard rolls are a must-try! :)
Other worthwhile food-related places to visit in NYC:
Kalustyan’s – For all your kitchen desires, spices, vinegars, beans.. let’s just say I was stopped by the bean section, and didn’t really make it to any other floor (I think there are 3 levels). (Thanks for the tip, Joanne!)
Essex Street Market – For down-to-earth fresh produce and condiments
Chelsea Market – A bit too upscale for me (can you say not affordable?) but a cute, artsy renovated warehouse housing upscale gourmet food vendors, with the Food Network located upstairs
I love having a food blog because it chronicles what I eat. And so I know this to be true.
This is monumental: I made my second meat dish since I started the blog!
(The first being sinfully delicious German beef rolls).
I am not vegetarian, but mainly prepare vegetarian dishes at home. I love fish, so that definitely prevents me from becoming a vegetarian. I have been going through many Middle Eastern cookbooks and food blogs, and was itching to make a tagine. Slow-simmered meat with savoury ingredients sounded really good and I have yet to come across a good vegetarian alternative yet. Claudia Roden’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Dates and Almonds screamed out at me. “Make me!”, it said.
I obviously have a thing or two to learn about cooking meat, though.
So what does boned mean? I figured deboned meant meat without a bone, and boned meant with a bone.
When I went to buy 3 lb of boned lamb shoulder for the tagine, I bought bone-in lamb shoulder. That’s what the recipe says, right? Well, when I came home, my mom was not pleased. It was $18 but that wasn’t what displeased her. Boned lamb means WITHOUT bones. Gah! Thankfully she helped rid the excess fat and bone so it was ready for the tagine.
Technically a tagine is made in a tagine clay pot and Roden explains in Arabesque that a lidded, heavy-bottomed casserole or stainless steel pan is preferred for making a tagine. I feel that a large wide pan is preferred so you have a single layer of meat and this limits the amount of water needed to cover the meat to allow it to simmer. This water is completely reduced by the end, producing a thick, rich sauce. My pot was a bit narrow so we had a lot of liquid. We ended up taking out the meat and boiling the heck out of the sauce.. I mean we reduced the sauce over high heat. ;)
After nearly 2 hours of simmering and sputtering, sometimes being watched, oftentimes not, we were able to enjoy this succulent lamb tagine. It was wonderful. The lamb was melt-in-your-mouth and the cinnamon, honey and dates made a delicious sweet and savoury sauce. Roasted almonds add the finishing crunch.
As a side to the tagine, we served couscous. But this wasn’t any couscous. I always thought you made couscous by adding boiling water, covering for 10 minutes and then fluffing it with a fork. I always found it bland and dry, so I was hoping to spruce things up a bit. I noticed Roden had a different way of preparing basic couscous, including a 15-20 minute bake in the oven, and when I stumbled upon a spiced couscous side at Confessions of a Cardamom Addict, I also added in cinnamon and raisins to the mixture. It was definitely not bland and dry. It was mighty tasty.
Together, we had a winning combo.
If anyone has a recommendation for a great vegetable tagine, I am all ears. :)
I was thankful to be able to visit my family over the Thanksgiving weekend. Any weekend we can come together as a family is a time to celebrate, but an extra day to stay certainly helps. My mom asks what we want to eat, and there is usually no hesitation because I always ask for the same dish: Rouladen. Rouladen is a traditional southern German dish that is usually served at special occasions at our household (by request!). Succulent pieces of beef filled with only the tastiest of ingredients: pickles, onions, bacon and mustard. The roll is then smothered in a red wine sauce. It is no wonder this is such a popular dish.
I wasn’t expecting to do much cooking this weekend, as some people don’t really like to share their kitchen (ah, the horrors of strudel making on Christmas Day), but we were invited to learn the art of making rouladen. There is nothing better at bringing the family together than passing culinary secrets from one generation to another.
My mom took us under her wings, and we had to watch intently, as she was also not going to supply an accompanying recipe. This is my adaptation of the traditional dish. It is best served with spaetzle, as it sops up the gravy nicely